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The Memorial Day holiday weekend marks the start of strawberry season

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The Memorial Day holiday weekend marks the start of the short-but-sweet strawberry season in Central Virginia. Get out now and pick your own; strawberry season will end by June 15 or so this year. Better still, live large, and phone ahead to reserve your own already-picked berries. Enjoy the views without the back-hunching work!

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There are many berry patches in the region, but four stand out for proximity to Charlottesville, beauty of the road trip drive, and their festive atmosphere. In no particular order these four berry patches are: Chiles Peach Orchard and Farm Market, Critzer Family Farm, Seamans Orchard and Saunders Brothers Farm Market.

Each of the four provide spectacular mountain views and great berries. How to pick between them? Let location be your guide, as well as how quick or how long you want the strawberry experience to be. Chiles Peach Orchard is located closet to Charlottesville, just west outside of Crozet, and perhaps is the most family-friendly. Critzer Family Farm offers great views but is really more of a get-in-get-your-produce-and-get-out arrangement. Critzer is conveniently locate in Nelson County a short drive from U.S. Route 250 onto Route 151.

From Charlottesville, Seamans Orchard and Saunders Brothers Family Market are more of a half-full day road trip, being located further afield, in between Piney River and Lovingston. It should be noted that even if you don’t pick the strawberries, the back road views are worth at least one trip to each berry patch. Seamans offers the most hours and is open each day of the holiday weekend. Saunders is open every day but Sunday, and offers old-time live music in an old barn-retail-fresh-market environment on Saturday, with strawberry ice cream sundaes.

Here are the details so you can make own your trip plans:

Chiles Peach Orchard is the closet mountain berry patch to Charlottesville, located just west of Crozet. Two strawberry patches are available for picking, and both have 360-degree mountain views. Make a day of it! The orchard provides wagons for your fruit load, or your tired-out-from-berry-pickin’ toddlers. Ice cream and homemade fudge are available on premises, as well as fruit ciders from apples, cherries and peaches. Strawberry donuts are on sale by the dozen or the half dozen. An outdoor deck and picnic tables are a great respite from field work. There’s also a long front porch area with a steady breeze. Open 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Sundays, Chiles Peach Orchard and Farm Market is located at 1351 Greenwood Road in Greenwood (434.823.1583).

The Critzer Family Farm is open Monday-Saturday 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. with two large strawberry patches sitting around a small pond with stellar Blue Ridge Parkway Views, and a fine proximity to Blue Mountain Brewery for a cold one after working in the field under the hot sun. Not a beer drinker? Have Critzer’s homemade ice cream instead. Critzer’s functions as a mini farmers market, with fresh produce and jams for sale. This early in the season hanging baskets and plants for your own vegetable garden are also available for purchase. Critzer Family Farm will be open on Monday, Memorial Day. The farm is located at 9388 Critzer Shop Road in Afton (540.456.4772).

Seaman’s Orchard will give you the loveliest and longest back road drive (sometime strawberry pickin’ isn’t only just about the strawberries) and they will be open each day of Memorial Day Weekend (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.; Saturday, 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m.). Seaman’s Orchard is located at 415 Dark Hollow Road in Roseland. Call ahead (434.277.8130) to reserve your pre-picked berries. And PRINT directions to take with you; cell service in this area is spotty.

What makes strawberries better? Ice cream. And on Saturday, May 24, Saunders Brothers Farm Market is hosting Strawberry Sundae Day. Veterans get a 20% discount, pre-picked strawberries are available for purchase, and from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., The Ridge Runners will play old-time music. Open Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Saunders Brothers Farm Market is located at 2717 Tye Brook Highway in Piney River (434.277.5455).

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